Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee

Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee
© Greg Nash

 

Senate Democrats say they may try to force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court with an unusual procedural tactic.

“There are many procedural things we can do,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidManchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives Water wars won’t be won on a battlefield Poll finds most Americans and most women don’t want Pelosi as Speaker MORE (Nev.) said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of using a discharge resolution to bypass Republicans.

“That’s one thing we can do. Certainly we’ve got that in our arrow quiver, to do that and other things,” Reid said.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTop security officials issue stark warning of Chinese espionage efforts Lame-duck Congress should pass First Step Act The Hill's Morning Report — Takeaways from the battle royal in the Oval Office MORE (R-Iowa) said last week that Republicans can’t stop Reid from at least attempting the maneuver. 

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Under the rules of the United States Senate, that resolution can be offered any time,” he said at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

Reid emphasized, however, that he’s in no rush to file such a motion.

He and his Democratic colleagues want to keep the pressure on Republicans to hold hearings on the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, believing they have the upper hand in the public relations battle.

“The obligation is for them to hold hearings and to have a vote. That’s in the Constitution,” Reid said. “Right now, we think we’re in a good place. The pressure’s on them, not on us.”

A senior Democratic aide described the discharge resolution as “a last resort.”  

But Republicans, by and large, have brushed off the pressure tactics. They argue that Reid took a different view in 2005, when Democrats were blocking then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

“The duties of the Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote,” Reid said on the Senate floor nearly 11 years ago. “It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.” 

The discharge resolution has not been tried in recent memory, so few Senate insiders know exactly how the process would work.

Essentially, Reid or another Democrat would offer a motion to proceed to a resolution to discharge Garland’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee.

That would first require Democrats to win a simple majority vote to move into executive session. If achieved, Democrats would have to overcome a 60-vote hurdle to consider the motion to discharge, according to a senior Democratic aide.

All in all, Democrats would need to keep their ranks unified and persuade 14 Republicans to vote with them to pull Garland out of committee, an unlikely scenario.

Republicans control 54 Senate seats, and Democrats have 46. 

Yet Grassley last week implied the vote would be difficult for Republicans given Garland’s credentials and the general view that he is more moderate than other potential Democratic nominees. 

“Whenever they take this vote — whether it would be based on confirming the nomination or whether it’s based on a discharge — it’s still going to be a tough vote,” Grassley said. 

Only two Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure Trump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Lobbying World MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday MORE (Ill.), support holding confirmation hearings for Garland, a well-regarded jurist with nearly two decades of service on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Collins praised the nominee after meeting him Tuesday and urged her colleagues to hold a public review instead of rejecting him out of hand.

“My views are not a secret to my colleagues. I would encourage all of my colleagues to sit down with Judge Garland,” she told reporters. “I believe that that’s how the process should work and works best when we have these one-on-one meetings followed by public hearings.”  

Kirk called Garland “one of the most eminent jurists in the country” after meeting with him last week.   

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Overnight Defense: Senate moves toward vote on bill ending support for Saudi war | House GOP blocks Yemen war votes for rest of year | Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget | Key Dem to leave transgender troop ban to courts Senate moves toward vote on ending support for Saudi-led war MORE’s (R-Ky.) conference has mostly held the line, arguing that the court vacancy should be left to the next president.

The number of Republican senators who supported hearings was initially four, but Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips The Senate must reject Bernard McNamee’s nomination for FERC Overnight Defense: Congress pauses to mourn George H.W. Bush | Haspel to brief senators on Khashoggi killing | Soldier is fourth to die from Afghan IED blast MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe Overnight Defense: Senate rebukes Trump with Yemen vote | Mattis, Pompeo briefing fails to quell Senate concerns with Saudis | Graham demands CIA briefing on Khashoggi | Pentagon identifies three troops killed in Afghanistan McConnell, Flake clash over protecting Mueller probe MORE (Kan.) reversed themselves after getting strong pushback from GOP leaders and conservative activists.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who may be eyeing a primary challenge against Moran, criticized him for even opening the door to hearings. 

“I have consistently said, and continue to believe, that it is hopelessly and dangerously naive for Senator Moran to expect that President Obama would appoint a believer in the appropriate judicial role and basic interpretation of the U.S. Constitution,” Pompeo said Monday in a statement.

Reid insisted Tuesday that Democrats have momentum in the fight over Garland.

“We feel we’re making progress,” he said, noting that 20 editorials have been written in Iowa criticizing Grassley’s decision not to hold hearings. 

The Des Moines Register wrote Monday that Grassley “seems just fine with stalemate,” referring to the two 4-4 ties on the Supreme Court since conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February.

Reid added that Grassley now has a more competitive reelection race. Democrats have recruited former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, the toughest opponent he has faced in years.

“No one thought he would have a race,” he added. “This is a real drag on the Republicans.”

Reid noted that more than a dozen Senate Republicans have agreed to meet with Garland, although most have made clear they will do so only as a courtesy.

In addition to Kirk and Collins, at least 15 other Republicans have voiced willingness to meet. They are Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony MORE (N.H.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanBipartisan lawmakers call for investigation into VA amid issues with GI Bill benefit payments Overnight Defense: Duncan Hunter refusing to step down from committees | Trump awards Medal of Honor to widow of airman | Pentagon names pick for Mideast commander Trump awards posthumous Medal of Honor to family of fallen Air Force sergeant MORE (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving Flake: Republican Party ‘is a frog slowly boiling in water’ MORE (Ariz.), Grassley, Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchHatch warns Senate 'in crisis' in farewell speech Senate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary Brzezinski: It’s ‘despicable’ for GOP lawmakers to dismiss Cohen memo implicating Trump MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Senate moves toward vote on bill ending support for Saudi war | House GOP blocks Yemen war votes for rest of year | Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget | Key Dem to leave transgender troop ban to courts The Year Ahead: Trump throws uncertainty into Pentagon budget Trump ultimatum sparks fears of new arms race MORE (Okla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBipartisan supply chain bill likely punted to next Congress, McCaskill says Overnight Defense: Trump at G-20 | Calls Ukraine 'sole reason' for canceling Putin meeting | Senate passes resolution condemning Russian actions | Armed Services chairmen warn against defense cuts Senate passes resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine MORE (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Moran, Murkowski, Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanDrug company to offer cheaper opioid overdose treatment after hiking price 600 percent The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown On The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested MORE (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMeet Maduro, Venezuela's copycat dictator Politifact names conspiracies about Parkland students as 2018's 'lie of the year' Republicans skeptical of Trump’s plan to have military build the wall MORE (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Ayotte, Portman, Murkowski and Flake are scheduled to meet with Garland next week.

Updated at 8:08 p.m.